Scotland has among the strongest rights in Europe for people facing homelessness. Reducing homelessness is a vital part of tackling poverty.

We are developing support services for those who are already homeless or at risk of becoming so. We are also taking steps to increase housing supply. As a result, the number of people reaching the point of homelessness has fallen in recent years.


We are reducing and addressing homelessness by:

We are also:

  • investing £3 billion to deliver 50,000 affordable homes by 2021
  • working with local authorities to build record numbers of council houses
  • abolishing the Right to Buy to protect up to 15,500 social homes from sale


Under the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 a person should be treated as homeless, even if they have accommodation, if it would not be reasonable for them to continue to stay in it.

Councils have a legal duty to help people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. They do this by:

  • providing information and advice
  • offering temporary or permanent accommodation if circumstances warrant it

The homelessness statistics for 2018/19 were published on 26 June 2019.  While there has been a 3% increase in homeless applications received since 2017/18, in the long term, applications have fallen 40% from a peak of over 60,000 in 2005/06.

Bills and legislation

The Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 introduced changes to existing homelessness legislation. It established the right to review a homelessness decision, and introduced a duty on registered social landlords (RSLs) to assist local authorities in rehousing homeless people.

The Homelessness etc. (Scotland) Act 2003 outlined the provision that by 2012 anyone finding themselves homeless through no fault of their own must be entitled to settled accommodation (a council or housing association tenancy or private rental).

This amended the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 which defines the rights of homeless people and was enshrined in law in 2012 with the Homeless (Abolition of Priority Need Test) (Scotland) Order 2012. In 2012 the Scottish Parliament also passed secondary legislation on housing support regulations, requiring local authorities to assess the housing support needs of homeless applicants.



Telephone: 0300 244 4000

Scottish Government Housing and Social Justice Directorate
Victoria Quay